Thursday, 15 September 2011


Baby gecko near mosquito net hook on ceiling!
 We have these geckos here!  They are not like the cute green little Geico Gecko; they are an insipid shade of opaque yellow (or the babies are brown) and vary in size according to age - the largest about 7 inches and smallest 3.  They are harmless and don't bother anyone.  They cling the ceiling, high up on the walls, or the screens.  Yes, our flat has screens - another nuisance.  These lizards come out mostly at night, and once we are in bed and it's dark they no longer stay high and on the walls.  They explore!  We always know where they have been because they leave their evidence!!!!  The first time Marty saw this she thought we had a rat and went out and bought a rat trap!!  She does not LIKE rats!!!  The smaller evidence looks like a mouse has been there.  So, every morning there is "dropping patrol" to clean up after the little monsters.  For some reason they are very fond of the desk around the laptop.  But, a real annoyance one morning was a deposit on top of Marty's hair spray can.  Now, how on earth did that little beast manage to balance on that small top? 

Ah!  The screens!  Yes we have screens on the windows - they are intended to keep out insects; however the mesh is fairly large, so a mosquito is not the least bit hindered; additionally, the screens don't fit square, so there are great gaps between the window frames and the screens.  The same ill-fitting problem applies to the doors as well.  But no large bugs get in to the place.  

Then there are the mosquito nets!!  The net hangs from the ceiling, but is never over the bed.  So we must move the bed out every night to get it under the net.  Then we have a sacred mosquito-net ritual.  First, we check inside it to be sure that no mosquitos somehow got in and are lurking, ready to dive-bomb after we have gotten into bed and the lights are out. Then we stretch it out over the four corners and tuck it is securely on three sides.  Carefully raising the free side, we fold ourselves as low a possible and go under - then tuck the rest in from inside and re-tuck what came un-tucked when we entered!  Of course it never fails that we neglected to turn out the lamp or forgot to shut the window, or didn't bring the clock inside the net.  So then we have to repeat much of the ritual!

A fourth minor annoyance is, of course, the power going off periodically; usually, in the middle of some important internet work.  We have fairly well sorted that out by purchasing a small modem that plugs in like a memory stick.  You have to love those satellites!  Of course, also periodically, the satellite has a hiccup.  

Having said all of that, David Livingston didn't even have the benefit of inoculations or malaria medication, he did everything on foot (chronically without shoes) or canoe, and for years at a time no one knew if he was alive or dead; there was next to no communication!  Needless to say, he had no hairspray!  So we aren't really moaning - just giving a few amusing details of life out here!

Jeremy, Kirsty, John and Marty went to Korwenje to be part of building a house for Margaret - a widow, whose house was falling in about her and the straw roof had big holes in it.  Your contributions have made her new house possible.  We hired a team of young "fundis" to construct the frame and roof, and her cell group got together to do the other parts.  Korwenje is in the mountains and very remote.  The road almost disappeared by the time we got near our location; then, we had to walk a quarter mile to get to the site.

Mzee (old man).  Note cock on dish rack in back of house.
When we arrived there were a lot of observers; especially, old folks.  This was a big event for the area and people were coming from all around to witness a house being built in one day (it was finished enough to be blessed and Margaret was in it that night).  It was a great testimony to the whole village to see a group of people together showing their love for Margaret and building her a house.  Apparently people heard of it, but didn't quite believe it. So the observers came and went all day long.  Some chairs and couches were brought out for the older people who wanted to stay all day and watch.  What a celebration!!!
As we came to the site we saw 18 posts in the ground as the basis for the framework.  Several more were added inside to separate the "rooms" - three in all.  There are no tape measures and no levels.  String is the level gauge and plum-bobs are a rock and string.  A hand saw is occasionally used, but a panga (machete) is the primary cutting tool.  They are very accurate with them.  Of course they do use hammers and humongous nails.  Three-legged ladders are constructed on site.  Then the trusses were made of young trees and hoisted into place in a very unique way.  One fundi seemed to be the expert roof builder.  He was the only one up there and certainly could have a second career as an acrobat.  

Remember, this is a remote area - nowhere near any water, which is needed for mud to make the walls.  So, at a specific juncture of the carefully choreographed building process, a couple of young men began to use a tool that looks like a bent shovel to hack at and dig up the ground around the new structure, and about the same time a small herd of donkeys appeared, carrying many 20 liter cans of water.  They were herded by a little boy of about 9 or 10.  These water cans were dumped into large oil barrels and then poured by buckets full onto the freshly-dug dirt.  The water is mixed in while the digging goes on and these young men tread the mud to make it the right consistency!

Then, the women get  involved! Of course they have been preparing food for lunch and the evening meal while the men were doing the frame work.  Kirsty and Marty put on their leso (cloth wraps), took off their shoes, and joined the ladies in the mud - making big mud balls and shoving them in between the sapling slats (Luo lathing).  The two of them were not nearly a fast as those experienced women, but they helped K and M by making mud balls for them.  So, those early years of making mud pies as little girls were preparatory for the mission field!  It was a wonderful experience and a good time was had by all.  We gained a deeper appreciation for the Luo women.  They work so hard and are so strong - and seemingly tireless.
Jeremy had a hand (or 2) at making the walls!

Jeremy, Margaret and Kirsty beside new house!
Kirsty and Jeremy were recruited to be part of the maize processing.  They arrived when we had about 6 bags left to winnow and prepare with preservative before bagging.  We haven't quite figured out how the people manage to put the maize in 80 kg bags (176 lbs.) and distribute it.  It takes the two of us to even carry 28 kgs - which is the amount we put in each bag so that we can move it around the storehouse and also distribute it easier.  (We probably are considered weaklings, but there is great grace given due to our age.  We seldom use the "age card", and we didn't in this situation, but our age factor has come in handy here on occasion.)  All of the maize has been processed and is ready for distribution.  We have sacked  approximately ONE AND A HALF EMPIRICAL TONS (1.36 TONNES).  Although some maize was spoiled, it was not wasted, for it is used to feed chickens and cows.  Additionally, the empty cobs are used for fire wood, and even the chaff that is winnowed from the kernels is used.  This fine (lighter than feathers) chaff and the maize silk that blows off is used to line the chickens' nests when they are brooding.  It is soft and also an insulation that helps warm the eggs.  Also, corn husks make wonderful tinder for helping to start the cooking fires.  Now all that remains is to distribute the maize to the widows.  We have to sort the timing out for that, but we surely want to give them some for Christmas.

Our next episode will include a visit to another hard-to-get-to cell group.  Jeremy drove and has really earned his Kenyan-driving merit badge.  


John and Marty